Verbal Abuse and New Nursing Grads

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Verbal Abuse and New Nursing Grads

Our young are not on the menu, says DON

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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The incidence of verbal abuse of new nurses by colleagues has been well documented, as has been the adverse effect it has on patient care. According to a new study conducted by the RN Workforce Project and published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, new nurses who suffer such abuse also have less loyalty to their jobs.
    Researchers surveyed 1,407 newly licensed RNs, asking how often they were verbally abused by fellow nurses. Forty-nine percent of respondents reported experiencing at least some abuse, although only 5 percent suffered frequent abuse (i.e., more than five incidents in the last three months).
    Nurses who experienced high levels of verbal abuse were substantially more likely to want to leave their current position within the next year than nurses who didn’t.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Researcher Wendy Budin, RN-BC, Ph.D., an adjunct professor at New York University’s College of Nursing, says the most commonly reported type of abuse “is best characterized as passive-aggressive” and “involved condescension or lack of acknowledgement.”
    “This kind of subtle abuse is less likely to be reported and more likely to be overlooked as a problem,” says Budin, “which makes it all the more insidious and it is all the more important that hospital administrators work to confront and prevent it.”

The Role of Staffing Shortfalls
The study indicates that abuse is more frequent on day shifts than night or weekend shifts and suggests a correlation between high abuse levels and staffing shortfalls or shifts of more than eight hours. Nurses working in intensive care units and Magnet-designated hospitals also seem to experience fewer incidents of harassment or abuse than other nurses.

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